April 2024

Ryan's Story

As part of our 10 year celebration we chatted with Ryan Marshall about his experience in the 24 Carrot Gardens program and how it has impacted his life, education and career.

We took Ryan back to Moonah Primary School where he was a student at the inception of the 24 Carrot Gardens program. One of our Program Managers, Kris McCarthy, spoke with Ryan about how the program influenced his life and view of food systems. They then ventured to Montrose Bay High School to learn more about Ryan’s experience re-joining the program as a 24 Carrot Gardens Garden Specialist, before finishing up the afternoon with a tour of Ryan’s thriving home garden in the Derwent Valley.

What is now the 24 Carrot Garden site at Moonah Primary School was once a bare paddock, without a fruit tree or raised garden bed in sight. The school kitchen and garden was advocated for by the Principal of MPS at the time, Ange Miezitis. As a result of Ange’s vision and resolve, MPS received a grant in 2009 from Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation (SAKGF) for two years worth of funding. The garden was established and Moonah Primary became a demonstration school in Lutruwita/Tasmania, pioneering the way for the kitchen and garden education movement for the whole of the state. 

Ryan Marshall was in Grade 3 at MPS when the garden was built and spent four years participating in the kitchen garden program before moving for high school. Although he didn’t know it at the time, the program ignited his curiosity and love of gardening and cooking immensely.  

“The [school] garden sparked my interest in the food and garden world,” Ryan shared, “and the program influenced my outlook on healthy food immensely.” He fondly recalled working alongside the volunteers and specialists in the school garden, cooking in the kitchen and then coming together at the end of the lesson to eat together. Ryan elaborated further and shared another standout memory with us, one of a celebrity chef dinner, where he and other students helped to cook and serve a meal alongside a celebrity chef for local community members and politicians.  

Since the funding agreement between SAKGF and Moonah Primary ceased in 2011, the celebrity chef dinners were a regular occurrence as a fundraiser for the school’s kitchen garden program. 24 Carrot Gardens founder, Kirsha Kaechele, attended one of these events and connected with Ange Miezitis, which subsequently provided inspiration for beginning the 24 Carrot Gardens program. You can read the 24 Carrot Gardens origin story here.

Ryan and Kris harvesting running beans in Moonah Primary Gardens

Ryan and Kris harvesting running beans in Moonah Primary School's Gardens

Ryan continued to enjoy cooking throughout high school at New Town High and went on to become an apprentice chef. It was while Ryan worked in the culinary and restaurant industry that he witnessed first hand what he described as being, “A big hole in the industry for waste and seeing where the food came from.” Ryan shared with Kris that they didn’t use many local suppliers, “We’d call up a supplier and everything would come from the one supplier. Everything. It’s not like you call up this [one] farm because they’re good at growing carrots, or because they’re good at growing cauliflower. It’s, you put an order in and you get what you’re given. There were no imperfections. All of the cauliflowers were white. All of the carrots were straight. All the tomatoes were perfectly round. Whereas in reality, that’s not the case.” 

Observing how little local produce was being used contributed to Ryan’s decision to change career pathways and divert his attention away from cooking and into the home and school gardening space.

When 24 Carrot Gardens were hiring a Garden Specialist to deliver classes in the Montrose Bay High School (MBHS) 24 Carrot Garden, Ryan, who was the groundskeeper at MBHS at the time, submitted an application where he cited his student experience in Moonah Primary’s kitchen garden program as a formative influence on his life and career choices. In a beautiful cycle, Ryan was a perfect fit for the role and he was employed as a 24 Carrot Garden Specialist in 2023.

Ryan believes getting students into the garden at a young age is important because, “It’s all about teaching [them] the basics of where their food comes from, it doesn’t just show up in the supermarket … and even if they’re not harvesting, giving them small tasks like watering the garden, or giving them a pot with a seed in it and putting them in charge of it, gives them a sense of great responsibility.” 

While working at Montrose Bay High School, Ryan was able to pass on knowledge he’s acquired over the years with his own students, “I told them to have an open mind when coming into the garden … I really enjoyed showing them that when you pull a carrot, there can sometimes be imperfections … not all fruits and veggies are [the same] and they’re perfectly fine if they aren’t.”

Ryan and Kris leaning next to the pizza oven at Montrose Bay Highschool

Ryan and Kris at Montrose Bay Highschool

Ryan witnessed firsthand the positive influence of the 24 Carrot Garden program, “24 Carrot Gardens has impacted my life a lot … It's taught me that past primary school, going into high school, kids still want to learn. Obviously it’s a little bit fewer because high school kids all want to do different things, but there are kids out there that actually want to learn [about the garden] and find out more. And you’d be surprised at the ones that actually do enjoy gardening.” 

To conclude the afternoon, Ryan welcomed Kris into his home garden in the Derwent Valley. The garden, having been established less than 12 months ago, is a beautiful testament to his passion for growing food that started all those years ago in the Moonah Primary School garden. He described his stunning and productive garden as the place where all of his previous endeavours of working in gardens and kitchens has come to. After the garden tour, Kris asked Ryan why having a home garden was so important to him. 

“Having a garden is important to me because of the free food… It’s cliche but not being able to get certain things [at the supermarket] for certain prices or certain sizes. Instead of going to the supermarket and paying $7 for a head of lettuce, by knowing how to put seeds in the ground, I can buy a packet of 1000 seeds for $3 and you should see the outcome from that!” 

Looking towards the future, Ryan said he would like to buy a little farm, live off the land, grow veggies, go to markets and have a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Box. When asked what he hoped to see in the future for 24 Carrot Gardens he replied, “I would like to see the program in all schools. Kitchen, garden, sustainable living type programs incorporated into all of the classes. Every curriculum has something to do with the garden, or the garden can be weaved into it. So I think that would be a pretty good goal!” 


We couldn’t agree more! If you would like to contribute to our vision of creating more kitchen gardens in more schools around Tasmania (and beyond!) you can donate to our program on a one off or recurring basis. Every $ counts and we are proud to be putting every $ to good use and inspiring young minds like Ryan’s. 

You can also check out some videos of Ryan's story on our Instagram page.

24 Carrot Gardens - Young People are Empowered to Create a Positive and Connected Food Culture.

Words by Zoe Rose & Kris McCarthy

Photos by Yasmin Mund